Chinstrap penguins nap thousands of times a day for only seconds at a time, study finds

Forget cat naps, the real masters of the short sleep are Penguins, as ITV News Reporter Leyla Hayes explains

Research has shed new light on the sleeping patterns of penguins, revealing some have thousands of catnaps every day, which last only a matter of seconds.

Chinstrap penguins in Antartica need to guard their eggs and chicks around-the-clock in crowded noisy colonies, but manage to get a total of 11 hours a day with thousands of microsleeps.

The research from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence, which was published in the journal Science, found the penguins nod off for around four seconds at a time to stay vigilant.

Sleep researcher Niels Rattenborg, who co-authored the study, said: "These penguins look like drowsy drivers, blinking their eyes open and shut, and they do it 24/7 for several weeks at a time.

"What's surprising is that they're able to function OK and successfully raise their young,"

For the first time, scientists monitored the brain waves of penguins to study their sleeping patterns. Credit: AP

Chinstrap penguins, named for their thin line of black facial feathers resembling a chinstrap, usually lay their eggs in pebble nests in November.

As with other penguins, one parent tends to the eggs and chicks alone, while the other goes off fishing for family meals.

The idea for the study came when one researcher noticed breeding penguins frequently blinking their eyes and apparently nodding off, during his long days of field observations.

Scientists tracked the sleeping behaviour of chinstrap penguins for the first time by attaching sensors which measure brain waves.

They collected data on 14 adults over 11 days on King George Island, off the coast of Antarctica.

The study was performed during the breeding season, and researchers think the penguins may sleep in longer intervals at other times of the year.

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